CHAMPs > Parkinson's CHAMP

November 2016 - Brooklyn Parkinson's Group & Friends

As long-time captain of the still growing, 47-member “Team Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group & Friends,” I'm dumbfounded and thrilled that in 2016, our team raised a whopping $20,033 towards curing Parkinson’s disease (PD)! It was the largest our team had ever been and the first time that we’d broken $20,000, having begun six years earlier as a far smaller team, raising just over $8,000. It was the best kind of surprise!
This title of Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group’s (BPG) “team captain” was thrust upon me in 2010 by Olie Westheimer, recently-retired founder of the Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group, in large part because she admired my apparent facility with the PUW website, along with the fact that I’d already successfully raised money for the Unity Walk for over ten years for my long-time family team.  To learn more about BPG, click here to read our post on PUW’s blog.  

My first Unity Walk family team, “Team Gordon” had been created on behalf of my dad who died in 2000 after bravely struggling with Parkinson’s for 23 years. Our fundraising was bolstered by donations from our family and friends. After my own Parkinson’s diagnosis in ‘99, and until my mom’s death in 2011, my mom and my sisters continued to fundraise for a cure for me too, and for all of my peers living with PD. When I became team captain of BPG’s team, our team name morphed into its present identity, but happily retained my donor base, including great generosity annually from both my sisters.

Whether I’ve captained a small or large team, the gratification of successfully raising significant sums for research towards a cure can’t hold a candle to the excitement of arriving in Central Park on Walk day each year. First, the energy is electric and joyous all day, and seeing so many people just like me cheerfully walking (however slowly!) with canes, walkers, and scooters, is an amazing experience. There is so much love evident amongst families living with PD, and between teams.

Second, over my years as a Parkinson’s advocate volunteering with a range of PD organizations, I’ve been privileged to meet and befriend a collection of extraordinary compatriots from across North America and beyond. Each year, the Unity Walk, a magnet for many of these normally dispersed advocates and warriors, never fails to offer me (and so many others) a satisfying abundance of delighted bear hugs of reunion. These hugs are often too brief, as people are often called to scurry back to their teams and families.

In recent years, BPG has had the honor of performing dance and singing routines on the Bandshell stage with a large cheering section from the rest of BGP in the audience. In 2015, the founders of BPG and Dance for PD, Olie Westheimer and David Leventhal were jointly honored as recipients of the Alan Bonander Humanitarian Award at the Unity Walk, which made that year particularly special. Most years, I end the event by visiting the many informational booths after completing the Walk where my friends and I collect all the giveaways - newsletters, information on resources, pens, baseball caps, tote bags, coffee mugs, and whatever else we can stuff into our bags or into walker baskets.

Cyndy Gilbertson, a very close friend and fellow BPG member since 2003, has been attending the PUW since its second or third year. A dear friend of the late Margot Zobel, founder of the Unity Walk, Gilbertson recalls her own first Unity Walk: “I remember arriving at the rallying site at the onset of the Walk, seeing so many hundreds of people gathering together to raise money to help cure the disease that was the burden of my life, and then bursting into tears.” Even today, she admits to “…welling up during each Walk, feeling disbelief that from such a small beginning, the Walk is now raising millions of dollars! It’s an event no one living with Parkinson’s should miss.”

Leonore Gordon
Team Captain, Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group & Friends